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I got one of those calls at work the other week that parents hate yet somehow anticipate, though it could have been a lot worse and the whole thing certainly has been a learning experience.

My 6-year-old was running around on the playground in aftercare when she fell and struck her head on the pointy edge of a metal balance beam. That has to be the worst place to hit your head.

The bleeding had stopped, but the program director advised she might need a stitch right at the hairline, assuring me that it was not an emergency. Unable to leave work, I attempted to call my husband who had already left his work and could not be reached.

Admittedly, I did not relish the thought of sitting in an emergency room into the wee hours of night so I called our primary care doctor and made an appointment for the next morning. I explained what happened and that she might need a stitch and the receptionist scheduled our visit.

I don’t do well with gore so when I viewed the relatively deep gash later that night it made me sick, kind of like when my husband is watching the “The Walking Dead.” My girl cried upon initial impact and the shock of all the blood coming from her head – we have a lot of it up there – but after that she was her typical brave, calm self. The fact that she got to pick whatever she wanted from the “prize cabinet” may have helped.

I still felt squeamish by the next morning, especially when the nurse told me to take off her bandage. The nurse doubted she would need a stitch, but then I learned why when the doctor came in the exam room. She informed me that stitches need to be done within eight hours of the cut happening, especially when on the head – something about the risk of infection going up.

The doctor gave me that look reserved for first-time parents and boy didn’t I feel guilty for not tending to my little girl soon enough, imagining that she would be horribly scarred like the Phantom of the Opera for the rest of her life. A few thin strips of magic medical tape were applied to her head to hold the gash together, she got a sticker at checkout, we paid the $25 co-pay and away we went, almost on time for school.

I’ve been mulling the incident ever since asking most anyone who will listen if they knew stitches have to be done within eight hours of an injury.

“What about if someone is stranded in tundra for weeks injured in a plane crash with cuts and gashes? What then? Do they not get stitches?” Most people acted like they knew stitches were an immediate thing, making me feel even more foolish.

It also made me remember that time my own mother stitched up a cut on my younger brother with her sewing supplies to save money. She’s not a doctor, but she does have lots of childrearing experience. Although, looking back, that particular brother was probably the only one of us eight siblings who would have allowed her to practice her medical stitching skills. I’m happy to report he survived.

Absent a stitch for my own daughter, she’s been receiving regular, careful first aid from me as I adapt to interacting with my child’s abrasions. My kindergartener has been walking around with an industrial strength bandage on her head for the past two weeks and getting lots of sympathy for it, too.

She transitioned to the more fashionable “Hello Kitty” band-aid the other day and the cut is healing nicely. I think she’s going to survive as well.

Parenthood is a learning experience, that’s for sure, full of surprises, challenges, and rewards. Parents do so much to ensure their children stay safe, but getting hurt is part of childhood and it’s impossible for us to be there to cushion every fall. We can’t beat ourselves up if we fail to do just the right thing in a finite time table. Life inevitably escapes our expectations and the schedules we carefully set.

My beautiful daughter will probably have a scar on her forehead forever from when she hit it on the balance beam when she was in kindergarten. She’s also going to always have a mom looking out for her, learning as I go along, allowing her to be a kid and not sweating the small stuff.

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Allison Brophy Champion can be reached at abrophy@starexponent.com or 540/ 825-4315.

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